This morning we went to the Conservation International awareness-raising event, held in the schoolyard. Pretty much the entire village showed up; I’d estimate that there were about 75 people there, with men sitting on benches in a semicircle and the women and children sitting on rice mats within that arc. As soon as I sat down, there was a flurry of activity as a dozen kids elbowed each other, trying to sit next to me. I feel like I have a fan club or something. There were lots of speeches, most of which I didn’t understand, but the enthusiasm was great, and the CI folks brought kids books, which were very well received, and a huge supply of khaki vests with tons of pockets for the “forest police” guys to wear, which they were beyond excited about. I forgot to mention that we went down to the dam yesterday. I guess they’re funding it, so they wanted to check it out. It’s small but pretty wonderful, really, although one chunk of canal was washed out by the cyclone this year. It was sort of entertaining for us to walk around with these city slickers though, who had to take off their fancy shoes to walk through the river at one point. Ha! We did another five surveys yesterday as well, and I think we’re planning for five more today.
Silvia, Manora and Jamila just arrived! They’re soaking wet and freezing, as the weather is quite brutal today, and unusually windy. But we’ve been catching up and waiting hopefully for coffee to appear in the hut. Tomorrow, a truck is coming to get us! I hope that the roads dry out a bit before then, or it’s going to be a heinous journey.
We’re back in Vondrozo, after what was truly my most harrowing road experience ever. The truck got stuck, of course, so we enlisted some of the boys to help us carry our stuff about a kilometer down the road to where our chariot awaited us. The road was a slick of red mud, and I slid down half of it to get to the truck, to I was feeling apprehensive before I even got into the covered bed of the pickup with another twelve people and ALL of our bags. Twelve! Plus five standing on the back bumper, blocking any fresh air that might circulate inside the tarp and relieve us from the gasoline stench. Luckily (relatively speaking, that is), I was awkwardly half-reclined on top of the pile of bags, closest to the cab of the truck, and was able to pull the mud flap aside to create a 6 inch by 6 inch window through which I could breathe and sort of see when the bigger ruts were coming, so I could brace myself. I’ve never been one to get car sick, but I was seriously struggling. And it took about an hour and a half or so. Needless to say, I am glad that it’s over.
Charles arrived back in Vondrozo last night with Ryan, and I guess they had (ahem) a few beer to celebrate their night off. It sounded like great fun, except the part this morning when Ryan woke up, feeling less than great, and had to bike the 70 km to Farafangana, because Marlin couldn’t make it out on his motorbike. Ugh.
Charles made us a pasta dinner tonight, including homemade sausages that he bought from Clauthilde, our neighbour. He and I went over to Le Flamboyant for a beer this evening as well, which was lovely. And Manora bought an eyeliner pencil at the store today! Preparations have begun for our return to the big city, I guess. I’m not sure that I’m ready for it.
Sahondra is here from Tana! She’s so adorable. She came in while we were making lunch and asked, “what’s new?” After three months! Ha. And Flavien and Kosa are here to drive, which is amazing. I’ve already told K that I’ve reserved a spot in his car. He’s too funny. We’re packing today and heading out tomorrow, which will be sad. The agents are coming to Farafangana though, so we can have a “cocktail” with them before leaving for the big city. We’re easing our way out of village life.